Miles Between Us
Deeks locked the door behind the senior agents and stayed there until he heard Callen and Sam’s door open and close. He pulled his gun from his back and checked it before laying it on the table between the two chairs in his and Kensi’s motel room. He stood still for several seconds, not really wanting to move. It was tempting to just sink into the seat behind him, close his eyes, and stare into nothingness for a while.
The shower in their bathroom turned on and Deeks opted against the chair. If he sat, he’d still be there when Kensi returned and she would think he was ready to talk. Nothing could be further from the truth right now, and that scared the hell out of him.
Deeks shut off the lamp in the corner before divesting himself of his shoes, shirt, and jeans and shoving them into his go-bag. He pulled out an undershirt and quickly yanked it on. Deciding it was best to sleep farther from the windows, he walked to the bed near the bathroom and settled in on the right side. If this was a normal night in a motel for an op, he and Kensi would have a friendly disagreement about him claiming “her” side of the bed, even though they both knew she slept better on the left.
But this was not a normal night.
Realizing he’d left the two lamps between the beds lit but too physically and emotionally drained to get up, Deeks rolled away from the light and toward the wall. Kensi was just on the other side of it, and he could easily imagine her in the shower. He fought the urge to go in there and offer to wash her back, tease her a little about the bathroom being the perfect place to fool around while Callen and Sam were in the next room, and pretend that last night never happened.
That would be the far easier thing to do, Deeks mused. He could mutter a quick “I’m sorry” and prove to Kensi up against the shower wall that he had no intention of leaving her even if she didn’t leave the job. But he would be kidding himself if he thought it was the right thing to do.
Their talk, argument, or whatever the hell that was in the parking garage last night opened Deeks’ eyes to a huge chasm between them that needed to be bridged before they got married. He punched the pillow, ostensibly to make it more comfortable, but it served to release a little of his frustration as well. How could they have ended up so far apart about what their life together would be like?
He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind and relax his muscles, hoping sleep would steal him away from the chaos that had suddenly overwhelmed his life. He failed miserably, and soon enough Deeks’ thoughts wound their way back to Kensi. Maybe he should have followed up more after he’d first asked her to think about leaving NCIS. If he had, would she have mentioned sooner that she wasn’t as committed to his picture of their future as he was? Shouldn’t Kensi have come out and told him if she was having second thoughts, though? She knew how much he wanted a different career and children with her.
Deeks didn’t realize the water had stopped running until the door opened and Kensi came out. He listened as her feet padded past the bed he was in and stopped somewhere in the vicinity of the middle of the room. He could feel Kensi’s eyes on him and he debated what to do. Deeks hated to think she was as miserable as he was and wanted nothing more than to turn over and invite her into his arms. Just to lay with her, wrapped in each other, would provide the comfort he was sure they could both use tonight.
Before he could act on his thoughts, Kensi sighed and bedsprings creaked, but his bed didn’t shift with her weight. Figuring she’d made her decision, Deeks resigned himself to sleeping (or at least trying to) alone tonight, much as he had last night because Kensi stayed at the mission monitoring the situation at General Vasquez’s compound after he’d been escorted home.
He considered pretending to sleep, not really up to brushing her off if she wanted to talk. “Yeah?” he scratched out instead.
“Do you want the bed to yourself?”
As much as he had just been thinking about holding her, Deeks didn’t want to be the one to take that step tonight. He put the decision back on Kensi instead. “Do you?”
“Not particularly, no.”
He thought she sounded wary, as if unsure of her welcome. Deeks rolled onto his back and eyed her for several seconds. She was sitting on the edge of the other mattress in her fitted tank top and boy shorts, feet on the bed and arms wrapped around her bent legs. She looked lost and it broke Deeks’ heart a little to see her so sad.
Considering her admission to be the first move, he lifted the cover next to him and Kensi quickly turned off the lights before crawling under. He was closer to the edge of the bed than the middle, and Kensi kept her distance as well. Deeks closed his eyes in exhaustion, relief, misery, fear, he didn’t know which. All he knew was that the love of his life, his everything, was lying inches away from him and it may as well have been miles.
Kensi shifted a bit before she settled in, no doubt trying to find a comfortable position while not encroaching on his space. When she stopped moving, Deeks’ hand itched to reach out and find hers, but it stayed on his chest. It seemed they were both unable to close the literal and figurative expanse between them at the moment.
The query surprised him, given that they both needed to sleep and this was the last thing they should be discussing now. Deeks’ first instinct was to reassure her that of course they would be, so they could at least pretend they would be all right and concentrate on other things, like resting up for tomorrow. However, the part of him that was still angry wanted to know how Kensi could ask that question, because how could they possibly be okay? He wanted to leave their jobs and start a family but she didn’t and wasn’t sure she ever would. And he had no idea how they could get around that without one of them being very unhappy. But Deeks wouldn’t open that can of worms on the eve of a very dangerous mission. So he spoke a simpler truth.
“I don’t know, Kens. I sure as hell hope so. But I don’t know,” he said, resigned.
“Sure. We always do, don’t we?” Even to his own ears, Deeks thought this sounded hollow.
Closing his eyes again, he tried to sleep, but his mind raced and his heart ached. Deeks wanted to give Kensi some assurance that they would work it out. He wanted it for himself as well. But he realized he wasn’t confident of that outcome. He’d never felt so emotionally distant from her, not even when she pulled away from him during her long recovery after their mission in Syria last year.
Deeks couldn’t keep from replaying their argument no matter how he tried to distract himself. But Kensi lying next to him was too strong a trigger to be ignored. She had said she wouldn’t compromise who she was, and he would never ask her to. But did that mean he should have to? Now that Deeks had a clear vision of the life he wanted with Kensi, he wasn’t willing to let it go easily or without a fight.
But there was so much uncertainty now that it terrified him. He wasn’t long for the LAPD, of that Deeks was sure. If this wasn’t his last case with NCIS, it would be coming soon. He couldn’t help but believe that he and Kensi were on borrowed time as long as they stayed in law enforcement and he didn’t know how to make her see that. Her recent brushes with death had barely phased her. Michelle’s death and Sam’s shooting hadn’t caused a hitch in her stride, apparently. Deeks knew he couldn’t do this much longer, but could he be okay working somewhere else and sending Kensi out there without being the one to have her back every day?
He’d hoped the temptation of children, their children, was enough to get Kensi to agree to leave NCIS sooner rather than later. To hear her ask “What if we don’t have kids?” yesterday floored him. Yes, they’d waffled back and forth at times on the subject, but for a while now they’d both expressed a desire to build a family together.
Faced with the hard reality of her announcement, Deeks’ choice wasn’t an easy one. Yes, he wanted children someday. But he’d only ever envisioned them with Kensi. The mutant ninja assassins that only they could produce. Did he still want them if she wasn’t going to be the one by his side teaching them right from wrong and showing them all the beauty in the world? If he couldn’t have kids with Kensi, which future was preferable: one spent with his best friend, lover, and partner (who might not be that for much longer), or one trying to find someone else he could love the way he loved Kensi and who also wanted children?
The truth was he just didn’t know. Deeks felt an internal pressure to decide one way or another before he and Kensi talked about it. Otherwise, he worried that his inclination would be to give into her wishes, or at least allow her to continue their state of pendency until she figured out what she wanted. Kensi didn’t seem to be taking motherhood, or even another career, completely off the table. She said she wasn’t sure when she might be ready for these changes. Which could mean tomorrow, next year, or never. Was he willing to take the risk that none of the future he’d been dreaming of would come to fruition? Again, he didn’t know. And it was giving him a headache thinking about it.
He needed to sleep. They had a near-impossible mission ahead of them tomorrow and he had to be at the top of his game. Kensi was still his partner and Deeks would be damned if he would let anything happen to her on his watch.
Deeks didn’t know how much time had passed since Kensi had come to bed, but he estimated about an hour. He opened his eyes and studied the ceiling, needing to replace the troubling images in his minds-eye. Shades of gray and black played on the stucco, the uneven texture adding to the depth of the shadows. Deeks wished he could send their problems up there and have them be forgotten in the darkness. He glanced at his partner and fiancée and saw she was on her side, watching him.
He shook his head, “We really need to.”
“I know something that might help,” she offered.
“What’s that?” He honestly couldn’t think of anything. At least nothing that was a good idea.
Kensi gently lifted his right arm above his head as she shifted closer to him. She laid her head on his chest and her arm across his abdomen, slipping her hand under his shirt at his side. Her leg curled up and over his and she let out a breath. The comfort her touch brought him was almost immediate.
Deeks waited a few beats of his heart before he slid his left hand across Kensi’s arm that rested on him and held on. He draped his other arm behind her and his hand found the curve of her waist, tucking under the hem of her tank. He inhaled deeply, allowing the familiar scent of her to give him peace for now.
He was on the precipice of what he hoped would be a dreamless sleep when Deeks heard Kensi’s hushed, “I love you, Deeks.”
His lips turned up in a ghost of a smile. After all they’d said and refused to say in the past twenty-four hours and as distant as they were right now, they would always have love between them, Deeks was certain. He just hoped it was enough to get them through the minefield they would have to navigate to find a common future. But it was enough for tonight, he decided. Deeks didn’t let himself think or debate anymore; it was as natural to him as breathing to simply say, “I love you, too.”
Within minutes they slept.
Kensi was halfway to the bathroom, change of clothes in hand, before Callen and Sam were out the door. She turned on the shower as quickly as she could, barely masking the sound of the first sob that ripped from her chest. It had been a long, emotional couple of days. She was exhausted and her defenses were down. Aside from yelling at Deeks in the garage she hadn’t been able to release any of the pent-up anger, frustration, fear–she didn’t even know what she was feeling anymore–but it was coming out in the tears that streamed down her face as she stepped under the surprisingly strong spray.
She tried to let the hot water relax her tense muscles, but her mind wouldn’t let her unwind. It kept bringing her back to yesterday. Mosley had been out of control, but Kensi couldn’t really blame her. They’d all gone rogue when a case hit too close to home, and a woman’s child was as close as it got. Firing Deeks was a knee-jerk reaction that Kensi was pretty sure Hetty would be able to reverse, assuming Deeks even wanted to come back.
And that was far from certain. Kensi hadn’t been surprised to hear Deeks voice his opinion that getting fired might not be a bad thing. She knew he was always looking beyond his career at LAPD and NCIS, but she hadn’t really understood how serious he was until he walked them into the bar a few weeks ago. What had always seemed like a “one day” scenario suddenly became “one day sooner than later.” But not immediate. After all, it would the better part of a year, if not longer, to get the bar into shape, up to code, and ready to open.
Which was why it stunned Kensi when Deeks suggested this mission be their last one. Their last one. Even when he’d talked about his next professional move, Deeks had never pressured her to leave NCIS. Hell, he’d once said he would never ask her to quit because he recognized it was selfish. But he’d asked her to think about it, and she had. She could easily see a life with Deeks and their children after NCIS, the little mutant ninja assassins he’d been calling them for years. Where he envisioned a daughter first, she always pictured a son. But she consistently fell short in trying to figure out when she would want to have that family and what she would do for work when she finally did.
She didn’t think she could be a stay-at-home mother, but she also couldn’t imagine what else she would do for a living if she wasn’t a federal agent. When Deeks asked her yesterday for a definite date to end her career and start a family, Kensi realized she couldn’t give him one. She couldn’t predict when she would be ready to become a mother. Could anyone? Why would she stop working at a job she loved, one that saved lives and that she excelled at until then?
Getting nowhere with her thoughts and having shed all the tears she could for now, Kensi quickly washed up. She shut off the water and grabbed a towel, drying her face first and hoping Deeks wouldn’t be able to tell she’d been crying. She knew it upset him when she did, and she didn’t want to put that burden on him too.
It broke Kensi’s heart that she couldn’t give Deeks what he wanted last night. It would take her a long time to get over the fact that she was responsible for that look of devastation on his face. He had always been completely supportive of her, and she knew she was letting him down by not being able to commit to a specific timeline for leaving NCIS and having kids. But was it fair to either of them for her to leave her job now? She was afraid that if she couldn’t get pregnant (after all, some couples just couldn’t conceive and never knew why—she ran a lot, was exposed to more gunpowder than most women, and had high levels of stress—what if any of those could affect fertility?) she would end up resenting Deeks because she left NCIS for nothing.
Exiting the bathroom, their room was quiet. Kensi immediately saw Deeks on one bed, his back to her, and wondered if he wanted to keep his distance. She stood and watched for any sign that he was awake. The tension in his body was his only tell. Undecided about where she should sleep, Kensi perched herself on the side of the other bed and waited to see if Deeks would say anything. When nearly a minute passed with no activity, Kensi called out to him.
“Deeks?” She said it quietly, to give him an out in case he really didn’t want to deal with her.
“Yeah?” He sounded so tired. Tired physically. Tired of the situation. Tired of her?
Afraid of his answer, she asked the question anyway, “Do you want the bed to yourself?”
“Do you?” Now his words held an edge, she thought. As if he didn’t want to assume anything about her motivations anymore. The implications of that disheartened her further.
“Not particularly, no.”
Relief flooded her veins when Deeks turned over and held up the blanket in response. Taking her cue from the tone of his voice, Kensi kept to the opposite side of the bed. She was tempted to reach out to him physically but doubted it would be welcome. She settled for lying on her back, knowing sleep wouldn’t come easily.
They needed to talk, but now was not the time. Not before a difficult mission, and not when the outcome of their discussion wasn’t certain. That she couldn’t predict what would happen as a result of that talk terrified her. But Kensi needed even the barest reassurance if she was going to get any shut-eye tonight.
“Are we going to be okay, Deeks?” she ventured, praying she wasn’t about to make matters worse.
“I don’t know, Kens. I sure as hell hope so. But I don’t know.”
Kensi blinked back tears. She’d expected a more optimistic answer from Deeks but at least he seemed willing to work it out. She held on to that glimmer of hope and offered, “Can we talk when we get home? When we’re calmer and not so tired we’ll figure this out, right?”
“Sure. We always do, don’t we?” He didn’t sound convinced, and that worried her beyond belief. Kensi’s breath hitched in her chest, the pain physical.
She wished he was more confident, and again fought back tears. She’d done this to him, Kensi recognized. She’d sapped the fire and the fight from the person she loved more than life itself. If she opened her mouth and just let the words come out, Kensi would apologize and agree to quit as soon as they got back to LA so they could spend the next few months planning their wedding and trying to get pregnant. But Kensi also recognized that if she made those promises, she would regret them soon enough. And then where would they be?
No, she was right to tell him that she wouldn’t lie to him and wouldn’t compromise herself. They would find some sort of middle ground. What that would be she had no idea, but they would do it. Wouldn’t they?
They needed to talk. She’d tried on the plane and then earlier today, but Deeks had been less than receptive. Kensi mentally kicked herself for walking away from him last night. He had been willing to talk then, but as soon as he gave her that ultimatum, she couldn’t listen anymore.
Kensi supposed she could write it off as falling back into old habits. Deeks probably would, because he knew her better than she knew herself. He would understand that when he said they shouldn’t get married it triggered a fear in her so deep-seated that she immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was leaving her, like all the other men in her life had. Like Jack, the first fiancé she hadn’t been able to give what he needed.
She had stalked back into the mission after leaving him behind in the garage and immediately headed for the shooting range, where she worked off some of her frustration. Deeks deserved more than her over-emotional assumptions, Kensi knew. With the gift of hindsight and a much calmer mind, Kensi had been able to replay their argument and realized that Deeks hadn’t in fact threatened to leave her if she didn’t leave NCIS. He (rightfully, she could admit to herself) suggested they shouldn’t get married until they were on the same page about their future. Right or not, the sentiment still hit her like a punch to the gut.
Later, while she was reviewing the same aerial images Deeks had been studying when their conversation started, it struck Kensi that he was at home while she was at work, and she had no idea how or what he was doing. She’d wondered if that was how it was going to be from now on; each of them only able to guess at what the other was up to at any given time because they were no longer partners. The thought saddened her greatly then as it did now.
Kensi had worked without Deeks by her side before and she could do it again, but she didn’t want to. She really did love being his partner in the field, but would she sacrifice being his partner in life to—to what, exactly? Deeks was ready to quit; she would lose him in the field soon enough anyway. Was she willing to give up both partnerships if she refused to compromise herself? Was Deeks? Were they seriously considering walking away from their dream of a family and a forever together because she wasn’t ready to give up her job just yet?
Kensi needed to shut off her brain. She was thinking in circles and getting nowhere. She wouldn’t be able to make these decisions without knowing Deeks’ thoughts and plans and she wouldn’t have those until after they rescued Mosley’s son tomorrow and they could finally sit down to talk. They needed to be in top form for all of it, and that required sleep. Kensi looked over at Deeks, hoping he was getting some rest, but his face didn’t have that beautiful, peaceful look she usually observed in his slumber.
Rolling onto her side toward him, Kensi propped her head on her hand and studied him for a while, again wanting nothing more than to touch him. She craved the feel of his skin against hers. They rarely fell asleep without some part of their bodies touching. Maybe that would help.
As if reading her thoughts, Deeks’ eyes opened. He kept them locked on the ceiling for nearly a minute before Kensi caught him sneaking a peek at her. “You can’t sleep either?” she asked softly.
He shook his head, “We really need to.”
Kensi couldn’t agree more. She took her chance, “I know something that might help.”
“What’s that?” He sounded curious, and she didn’t need any more encouragement.
Kensi moved his arm out of the way and nestled herself against him, her head on his chest. She inhaled quickly before laying her arm across his toned stomach and snaking her hand under his shirt like she normally did. Her leg instinctively drew up and rested on his. She let her breath out slowly and relaxed, soothed by both the sound of his heartbeat and the feel of his warm skin.
It took a few seconds, but eventually Deeks responded in kind. Kensi almost shivered when he ran his hand along her arm and gripped her just tightly enough to tell her that he needed this too. His other hand landed on her waist and moved her shirt aside to find its home on her bare flesh. She heard him draw a deep breath and felt the tension in his body begin to subside.
Kensi almost told Deeks that she loved him, a habit that had over the years become a natural reaction to being in his arms, particularly when they were on the edge of sleep. But she was hesitant, unsure if he would return the sentiment. She loved Deeks more than anything in the world, and Kensi knew in her heart that he still loved her, despite their suddenly uncertain future together. But the gift of those words may be more than he was able to give her tonight. Realizing Deeks’ breathing had deepened and evened out, Kensi thought he’d already fallen asleep.
“I love you, Deeks,” she whispered, hoping some part of him heard and was comforted by the reminder.
He gently squeezed her arm where he held it, “I love you, too.”
Hearing those words, more than any others tonight, was enough to offer her some peace. Kensi smiled softly and barely resisted the urge to lay a kiss on his chest.
Within minutes they slept.